Making the grade

LIHUE — Kapaa Middle School Principal Nathan Aiwohi has worked to bring his school out of its restructuring classificiation under the No Child Left Behind Act ever since his tenure began in 2007.

In the years since, students fell short of reaching that goal even though they met many of the state’s reading and math benchmarks on their annual assessment tests.

That was, however, until last year.

Results from newly revised Hawaii Department of Education standards show that Kapaa Middle School is ranked fourth on the island for academic performance and achievement.

“It has been a great ride,” Aiwohi said on Monday as he prepared to host an impromptu celebration for the school’s faculty members. “It feels amazing. The teachers and students have done a great job and we wanted take a part of the day to reward them.”

In all, 14 of the island’s 21 public schools were marked for continuous improvement under new HDOE standards that consider a wide range of factors, and not just testing alone, to measure student achievement.

The statewide results released Monday morning marked the first time the HDOE used a new system to rank all public and charter schools on a revised set of benchmarks and standards previously dictated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Under previous standards, a school’s performance was based primarily on reading and math scores collected from the Hawaii State Assessment, an annual test that was administered to all students from the third to tenth grade.

But those policies were revised shortly after the U.S. Department of Education accepted a waiver that allowed the HDOE to implement a new school improvement system that is exempt from certain No Child Left Behind Act requirements.

This revised grading mechanism, the Strive HI Performance System, was approved by the U.S. Department of Education in May 2013.

This new 400 point system, according to HDOE officials, measures a range of factors to measure a school’s performance and progress, including test scores, attendance records, graduation rates and the achievement gap between high-needs students and their peers.

“By valuing more than just test scores, we are taking a comprehensive look at the successes and challenges of schools,” Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe said in a statement. “This wealth of data will allow educators, school leaders, parents and the community to have meaningful conversations about what is working and where they need to improve to prepare all students for college and careers.”

In all, four schools — Kauai High, Kanuikapono Charter, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle and Kapaa Elementary Schools — were placed in the DOE’s Focus category based on “low achievement, low graduation rates, or large within school achievement or graduation rate gaps.”

Two Kauai schools — Kekaha Elementary and Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha Learning Center — were also listed in the DOE’s Priority category, ranking them among the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state based, in part, on “persistently low” achievement and graduation rates.

Planning and pre-intervention activities for these schools is expected to begin during this school year and be fully implemented by the 2014-2015 school year, according to current DOE projections.

“Because we have the different measures, it helps us identify where we should be looking to help schools improve in certain areas,” Complex Superintendent Bill Arakaki said. “I’m very pleased that many of the schools met the continuous improvement standards, and we’re really going to work with some of the schools and help them improve in areas that they may not have done so well in.”   

And the ways in which the HDOE can do that, Arakaki said, is more clear under the new Strive HI Performance System standards.

Under the No Child Left Behind assessment, six Kauai schools — Wilcox Elementary, Kapaa Middle, Waimea Canyon, Kauai High, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle and Kapaa Elementary Schools were in the restructuring process, while another four schools — Kapaa High, Kalaheo Elementary, Waimea High and Kekaha Elementary Schools — were implementing new changes.

“It just goes to show that looking at proficiency alone is not the way to go,” Arakaki said. “We have good schools on Kauai. It’s just that some schools are lacking in certain areas, so we need to find ways to help them improve.”

Continuous Improvement

Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary (265 points)

Hanalei Elementary (254 points)

Kula Aupuni Niihau A Kahelelani Aloha (238 points)

Kapaa Middle (235 points)

Kilauea Elementary (232 points)

Niihau Elementary and High (222 points)

Kapaa High (221 points)

Kalaheo Elementary (201 points)

Waimea High (191 points)

King Kaumualii Elementary (184 points)

Koloa Elementary  (177 points)

Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School (158 points)

Eleele Elementary (157 points)

Waimea Canyon Middle (137 points)

Focus

Kauai High (241 points)

Kanuikapono Charter School (135 points)

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle (101 points)

Kapaa Elementary (86 points)

Priority

Hawaii Technology Academy (202 points)

Kekaha Elementary (72 points)

Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha Learning Center (17 points)

Source: Hawaii Dept. of Education

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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